Northern Ireland news

Tall Ship owner whose vessel sank in Strangford Lough asks Queen of Denmark for help to raise it

Michael McHugh, Press Association
15 February, 2017 11:16

The owner of a Tall Ship which sank in Northern Ireland has appealed to the Queen of Denmark for help to raise it.

The 1930s vessel toppled over while moored in Portaferry in Strangford Lough in Co Down last month.

A marine event organiser said the sinking was an accident waiting to happen and had warned the authorities about the danger months earlier.

But owner William Mulhall said he could not move it then because of an issue over insurance and was receiving mixed instructions from different branches of government.

Mr Mulhall said the boat's name - Regina Caelis - meant Queen of Heaven in English.

"I wrote an email to the Queen of Denmark (Margrethe the Second) asking for help. From one queen to another."

He is seeking assistance to lift and restore the grand old schooner.

He said: "She will sail proud - all it needs is a golden opportunity."

The Regina Caelis was built in Denmark in the 1930s but was acquired by Mr Mulhall.

It was left tied up at the jetty for more than a year before it sank.

Gary Lyons wrote to Ards and North Down Borough Council months ago over concerns the boat could interfere with a regatta he was planning.

He said: "This was a car crash waiting to happen."

Mr Mulhall blamed electrical failure for the sinking.

Because of the condition of the boat he said he was unable to get insurance and take it to a dry dock to carry out repairs.

He said one part of government had barred him from moving it while the local council was urging him to take action.

His efforts to establish it as a restaurant in Belfast's Titanic Quarter had also been frustrated.

He said: "I was stuck between a rock and a hard place."

A bid to have a crew from Malta lift the vessel and take it to the Mediterranean has not made progress.

Strangford Lough is an important marine environment near Belfast which enjoys special protection.

Mr Lyons said: "I would estimate we, the local ratepayers, will be footing a bill at a guess of around a quarter to half a million pounds to clear it all up.

"This was avoidable ... The council are telling us what a tragic accident it all is, and we are extremely frustrated by it all."

An Ards and North Down Borough Council spokeswoman said the schooner was moored at the jetty without its permission and it made numerous requests to the owner to move the vessel.

"Legal action was taken against the boat owner and a court order was obtained requiring him to move his vessel from Cook Street Jetty."

15 February, 2017 11:16 Northern Ireland news

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